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MUSIC TAO JONZ : The Way to Play : They've got the cool band name and the cool band member names.

February 28, 1991|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tao Jonz. Pretty funny, huh? But what does it mean? Was Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu actually a closet capitalist whose "way" actually led to some sort of Asian Wall Street? Nah, Tao Jonz is just another rock band with a funny name--perhaps not the Mother of All Rock 'n' Roll Funny Names, but not bad, anyway.

The guys in the band have some mightily metaphysical musical monikers themselves. Stosh--that's it, Stosh--is the drummer. Johnny Atmosphere is the keyboard player. Jimmy Working, "The Working Man," sings and plays lead guitar, and Dougie Flash or Leonardo Convincing--it's the same guy--plays bass and sings lead.

"I'm always changing my name only because I've never been to India yet," Flash said. If the band's gig goes well tonight at Felix's Cantina, he could be Bombay bound--and I don't mean the yuppie bar in Ventura.

"Jimmy Working? He's 'The Working Man,' what can I say?" Flash said. "And Stosh? Yeah, that's him. We went through 11 drummers before we found him. Drummers were dropping like flies. And Johnny Atmosphere? When we hired him, he didn't know any of our songs and we told him we had a gig the next day. So he just faked it--he was very, um, atmospheric. The band name is sort of an East meets West thing."

So they've got the cool band name, the cool band member names, plus they even have a giant-sized banner on the stage behind them when they play so that no one will confuse them with anyone serious. But no T-shirts. They do have a tape and about 50 songs, plus they can drink a lot of beer. So many of the potholes along the road to rock 'n' roll stardom have been filled.

Tao Jonz has been around for a couple of years, having come from somewhere else. Flash is from Chicago, and The Working Man is from Colorado.

"I met Doug in Ft. Collins. We were in a band together called Rhythm & Views. We did all originals, no covers," The Working Man said. "Anyway, Doug and I started living together and writing a lot of kooky songs. But when we'd play, people would just stare at us like they were dogs. People were intellectualizing our music. It was then we realized we had to move to California to become rock stars."

Usually, the first thing a tourist does after arriving in the Golden State is to emulate E.T. and call home to tell everyone to come out here. But not Flash. He scarcely had a dime left when someone ripped off all his belongings from his van.

"Nah, I wouldn't call home anyway," he said. "I don't care about them. I care about myself."

With no money, Flash moved to Isla Vista to join The Working Man, and Tao Jonz was born. "At first we were a two-man band," The Working Man said. "But we were desperate for a drummer, so we placed a few ads. We were initially surprised that anyone wanted to play with us because we were playing to a lot of empty rooms. We went through a lot of drummers. Drummer No. 2 quit an hour before a gig, so we faked that one.

"Anyway, somehow we started to make money. We played at Chuy's Long Bar in Santa Barbara a lot and got a following from there. We've been gigging ever since. And since we play at least three or four times a month, we're one of the few bands in Santa Barbara that people know about."

Tao Jonz music is sort of funky, sort of rock 'n' roll, sort of reggae, all mixed up into something new and improved. The music is pretty choppy--most songs sound as if they could end at every note.

"People have trouble categorizing us," Flash said. "We're just pop musicians and songwriters. And, on the other hand, Santa Barbara is full of awesome babes that like to dance--especially when they're drunk."

* WHERE AND WHEN

Tao Jonz, today, 9 p.m., Felix's Cantina, 525 State St., Santa Barbara, 962-1432. About two bucks.

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